Royal Proclamation, Constitution & Indian Act

Information on this page relates most to Idle No More Manitoba themes:


The Royal Proclamation, 1763

The Royal Proclamation laid out guidelines (according to the British Crown) for how lands in what would become Canada were to be settled by Europeans.  This page from the University of British Columbia does a good job of explaining the Royal Proclamation and lets you read the part of the document that talk about Indigenous peoples’ rights to the land.

A key piece of the Royal Proclamation is that it stated that all land is Indigenous land unless ceded through a treaty.  Because of this, the Royal Proclamation is considered to be an important document when talking about Aboriginal (land) Title.

The Constitution of Canada

The Constitution Act, 1867:  “Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians”

The country known as Canada came into existence in 1867.  Canada’s first Constitution was known as the British North America Act (it was an act passed by the British Parliament).

There is a short – but important – in section 91 of the Act   This is the section that lists the responsibilities of the federal government (as opposed to the responsibilities of the provinces).  Section 91(24) lists that the federal government has responsibility for “Indian and lands reserved for Indians.”

The Constitution Act, 1982:  Rights are “recognized and affirmed”

In 1982 Britain gave Canada the power to change its own constitution.  At that time a new Constitution was passed (it included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms).  The new Constitution Act also set out the rights of “Aboriginal peoples”.  Section 35 contains the important statement:

“The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

The Indian Act

The Indian Act was put in place by the federal government in 1876.  It was put in placed based on section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 which gave the federal government responsibility for “Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians” (see the link above).

The Indian Act defines who has Indian Status and contains many rules and regulations that govern individuals, reserves and bands.

“Breaking Down the Indian Act with Russ Diabo”

This video by researcher and writer Russell Diabo talks about the ongoing roll of the Indian Act.

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